In Praise Of Pelosi

A reader writes:

Virtually all the reactions today have focused on President Obama’s grit, determination, skill and patience and I have no quarrel with any of that. But I don’t think Nancy Pelosi is getting her due today. I’m a progressive Democrat in California, and have butted heads with Pelosi on several issues over the past three decades. For most of that time, I was not impressed. In the past two months, I have been very impressed.

Recall that in December, the House became the first chamber of Congress in history to pass a universal healthcare bill. This was no small feat. Then, as the Senate dithered, the Speaker was a strong voice for the public option and for acting. After the Massachusetts special election, when the Senate was ready to wash its hands of the whole thing, and Emanuel and who knows who else in the administration were arguing for scaling back or even dropping the effort, Pelosi dug in her heels, insisted on the whole enchilada, and showed the way.

This past week, she delivered the House yet again, in support of a Senate bill that was given zero chance in January. It was as deft a performance by a Speaker as we are likely to see in our lifetimes. One misstep could have blown the whole thing up, but she handled all the brushfires, and the press, with remarkable assurance. She just stepped up and took charge.

A very telling moment was when the Senate Majority Leader attended the House Democratic caucus meeting on Saturday to promise to pass the reconciliation bill. It was little remarked on at the time, overshadowed by the President’s speech to the caucus, but I believe that was unprecedented in the history of relations between the two chambers. President Obama may have secured his place in history alongside FDR and Lyndon Johnson, but also I think Nancy Pelosi may be in Sam Rayburn territory.